An interview with Project Just

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I had the pleasure of talking with Natalie, the brain behind Project Just. Here is our conversation below:

How Was Project Just Started? 
Natalie was visiting Shahd in India in the spring of 2013.  They were Global Fellows at Acumen , a non-profit impact investing fund. While both grew up with a love of fashion, each had witnessed the injustices of poverty abroad and were drawn to careers in civil service and impact.

Natalie was working for a cotton company in Uganda that helped farmers rebuild their lives after decades of civil war through an organic and fair trade cotton farming program. She saw the immense value in the improved livelihoods of the farmers but was shocked their story was not communicated to the end shopper.  Could they direct more attention and business to the beautiful effort, work and people behind a cotton t-shirt ?   

She brought the question to Shahd, who before Acumen, had co-founded a fashion house in Saudi Arabia that collaborated with women artisans from Saudi and the region to highlight the beautiful craftsmanship and heritage in a modern way. She had felt a similar tug to tell the story of these artisans and connect them to the shopper.

They traded ideas over a meal: how can we tell the story behind our clothing? Can we empower the farmer, the worker, and the person buying the clothes by connecting them? They were united in wanting to highlight these beautiful stories to the shoppers.

Then in April of that year, the factory collapse at Rana Plaza killed 1129 people.  They both realized that not only were the good stories behind our clothing were hidden but also the bad. It became a necessity for stories to make it to the shopper.  Transparency wasn’t just a nice to have but a must have.

We love knowing the beautiful way an item is made, the art, the hard work, and craftsmanship that goes into it. We didn’t set out to showcase the negative.  But the more we learned about the practices in the supply chain, the more we realized that, through our purchases, we were supporting practices with which we didn't agree and we knew our friends wouldn't either. So we made this platform to help us all sort through this information and make informed decisions.

What is Project Just?
At JUST we are building a community to help shoppers learn the stories behind their clothes. Our online platform, Project JUST, features profiles of 70+ fashion brands researched by ethical, social, and environmental factors and a content platform including shopper profiles, neighborhood guides and styling posts to help shoppers put their values into action.

JUST’s online tool distinguishes the rad from the bad in fashion, using storytelling to incite change in the industry.  Our shopper platform distills supply chain, product and company information into an index of brand recommendations, stories and alternatives based on social, environmental and aesthetic factors. By engaging and empowering shoppers with information, we can shift their demand towards the positive actors and practices in the industry. We believe real change can happen through the accumulation of the thoughtful choices we can make everyday.

We called this a project on purpose: it’s perfectly imperfect right now. It’s meant to grow through collaboration: we humbly request that you help us make it better. Ask your questions, download the data, submit a brand, contribute what you know, share these stories. We believe real change can happen through the accumulation of small choices we make each day.

Below are two links from Natalie at Project Just. Check them out!